Culture + Diversity in Education: A Reflection

Here is a little blog post I created for my TEL 111 course on culture and diversity in Education. Click here for my references.


 

How do learners learn socialization and acculturation?

 

Learners are engulfed in socialization from the moment they are born. They are taught from day one that crying will bring them comfort in some form, and that they must cry if they want their guardian to bring them food or change their diaper or hold them. That being said, learners pick up on socialization via their families in the early stages of their development. As they grow older, their peers, educators, and society tend to influence their socialization and their acculturation.

For example, if they see on the news that their culture is being shamed, negatively spoken about, or chastised, they may react in a few ways. They may proudly display their culture despite the criticism, they may attempt to hide their culture out of fear or shame, or they may fall somewhere in the middle, confused about what stance to take. In this case, it is not unusual for learners to follow the lead of their parents and educators, especially at a young age.

Take the teachings from the lesson in “A Class Divided” (1985), for example. The students who participated in the experiment immediately latched onto what their teacher was saying as if it were pure truth. When she ended the experiment, it was clear that the students were taught a lesson in diversity and understanding that appearances do not warrant judgement.

Students may learn acculturation from media, that is, society at large, and may also learn it from their peers, depending on how diverse of an area they reside in. Modified cultural pluralism states that after intermixing with peers and other cultures via society, learners may develop modified versions of their own cultures.

Learners pick up how to make modifications to their cultures via their peers and cultures for a variety of reasons: in order to make their culture more manageable for others, in order to add to their own culture, or simply to blend their new culture with their older one. Regardless, acculturation allows learners to hold onto pieces of their native culture while considering taking on aspects of their newer culture.

For example, students who come to the United States from other countries, such as from Latin American countries, must make choices regarding learning a new language in relation to their culture. Some may choose to learn the language, others may pick it up over time, and some may decide not to learn it at all.

This will all depend on the questions provided by Berry, Kim, and Boski: a) how important is it for one to maintain their own ethnic roots and distinctiveness, and b) how much contact does one want with other ethnic groups, including the dominant culture (Cross Cultural Teaching, 2011)?


 

Refer to the cross-cultural teaching videos and provide an example of a learner in each of the following situations based on the information provided from the three-part series: In what ways do schools support division among cultures and races? In what ways do they eliminate the division and celebrate diversity?

  • Assimilation

 

        1. This is a student who comes into their new environment with their old culture, meets the new culture, and decides that it is a better fit for their current situation. This is the student who leaves their old culture and replaces it with their new culture. Often, this is referred to as the American system, often visualized as a melting pot.

 

  • Acculturation

 

      1. Differently, this is the student who approaches their new environment and acknowledges it, learns from it, and may adopt certain aspects of it to their own culture. For example, they may modify their own personal, native culture to include some of the new things they witnessed. This can essentially create a new, blended version of their native culture, still allowing the learner to participate in their new culture while maintaining their native culture.

Schools can both support the division among cultures and races, or eliminate the division and celebrate the diversity of its students. Which position is taken is entirely up to the school, and it varies across the nation.

For example, schools require strict dress codes that often shame African American girls for wearing their natural hair, or that require all young girls to wear very modest clothing in order not to distract their male counterparts. In addition, schools may choose to celebrate the Christmas season, but not acknowledge the other holidays that take place during the same time or throughout the year, despite having students who celebrate these holidays. These are examples of schools disregarding the diversity among its students.

In other ways, schools can be a wonderful place for students to celebrate their diversity. As mentioned in the article by Juan Sepúlveda (2010), community schools exist and are a wonderful way to honor the diversity of not only the students, but the community. The schools exist to meet the unique needs of both students and community members, and they acknowledge the various cultures and have culturally sensitive trainings for their employees. This allows students to learn the cultures that exist in their communities and to gain respect for them. Gardner and Mayes (2013) also mention the significance of the community in the education of African American learners.

A wonderful example of schools celebrating diversity in their learners comes from an article I read long ago, Developing Biliteracy with High School Spanish Speakers. The program is called Spanish for Spanish Speakers. It is similar to a standard English course, in the sense that it explores literature, grammar, and other things one might explore in English. The catch is that they conduct the course in Spanish, and learn about these lessons in relations to Hispanic or Latinx cultures.


 

What types of methods could you employ in your classroom/educational environment that would help a learner feeling “outcasted” based on race, gender, or culture feel accepted and a part of the school culture?

 

The website, Education World – Hispanic Family Resources that we explored this week would be a wonderful resource for a student who may feel outcasted based on their culture. It has lesson plans and other information and tips that both families and educators may find helpful.

Bouncing off of that idea, simply doing a Google search to learn more about the student’s culture is a great way to begin. It is not the responsibility of the student to educate you on their culture unless they want to, and it is simply a large task for a student to educate an adult. They should not be asked to do so.

After educating yourself more on the student’s culture (which ideally is done before the student arrives), one may approach the student and talk to them, letting them know you are there if they need to talk about anything at all. It can be reassuring to a student to know that you are a resource- especially if the role of a teacher was different in their culture.

Another way to defeat the outcast feeling is to meet with the parents of the learner and provide them with resources about how your classroom functions and what you expect the role of the parent to be. This will give space for both the parents and the learner to ask any questions that may be lingering.

Lastly, getting the student involved in after school activities like clubs, or finding them a mentor in an older grade, may be beneficial, as well as regular check-ins with the student.


Here is a point where I would like to turn the question out to my peers: I am wondering if you all think that it would be a good idea to educate the learner’s peers on the culture of the student who is being outcasted. Would it be beneficial to have a project where each person talks about their own culture? I would not want to ostracize the student further, but would like to make sure that the class understands the culture of their peer, if it would be helpful to do so.

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Megan is a writer, poet and visual artist. She lives with her cat son Felix in South Texas and enjoys tea, fuzzy blankets, most foods, and reading. Here, you can find bits and pieces of what she’s working on.

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